Origin of Korean noodles
Korean noodles originated from ancient China.Through cultural exchanges and trade between China and Korea, noodles were introduced to Korea. However, there are some differences in terminology and preparation methods between the two countries. In Korea, the term “noodles” referred to a bottle made of rice, while the boiled noodles were called “naengmyeon” because they were rinsed with water and then scooped out. The Goryeo Dynasty provides the earliest evidence of noodle consumption in Korea.
Initially, Koreans relied on imported wheat flour from China to make noodles. However, due to the unsuitability of wheat cultivation for the Korean climate, Koreans began developing their own unique noodle recipes using locally available ingredients. They started using buckwheat, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and other grains to make noodles. One of the most famous Korean noodles is “naengmyeon,” a cold noodle dish typically served in a chilled broth or with a spicy sauce. Naengmyeon is believed to have originated in North Korea and gained popularity throughout the country during the Joseon Dynasty.
For centuries, noodles have been an integral part of Korean ancestral rites and celebratory events such as weddings, birthdays, and 60th birthdays, as well as in commemoration of deceased ancestors. Noodles are included in these rites of passage due to their long and lasting shape, symbolizing the hope that the significance of auspicious events or remembrance will endure for a long time. In the past, wheat was not well-dried in Korea, making food made from wheat a valuable delicacy served to guests during special occasions like birthdays, 60th birthday parties, and weddings. Historical records even indicate that noodles were exclusively consumed at birthday parties for emperors or high officials. Noodles were considered an auspicious food that symbolized prayers for longevity and enduring relationships by our ancestors.
Meaning of Korean Noodles
Noodles have long been associated with longevity and good health in many cultures. In China, noodles are often given as gifts on birthdays, especially significant milestones like the 60th birthday, to symbolize a wish for a long and healthy life. This tradition dates back to the Tang Dynasty and has been documented in historical texts. The noodles consumed on birthdays are called “longevity noodles” and are believed to bring good fortune and a wish for a long life. This belief is also seen in the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, where eating noodles made from valuable ingredients on birthdays is seen as a prayer for a long and healthy life. The tradition of noodles as a symbol of longevity and good health has been deeply rooted in Chinese and Korean cultures for centuries.
Additionally, noodles are a communal food in Korean culture. They are often shared among family members and friends, promoting togetherness and unity. Sharing a bowl of noodles is seen as a way to strengthen relationships and foster harmony. Moreover, Korean noodles represent the diversity and versatility of Korean cuisine. There are a wide variety of noodles available, each with its own unique texture, flavor, and cooking method. From thin wheat noodles to chewy sweet potato noodles, Korean noodles offer a range of options to suit different tastes and preferences. Overall, Korean noodles carry deep cultural symbolism and are cherished for their meaning, as well as their delicious taste. They are an essential part of Korean culinary heritage and continue to play a significant role in Korean food culture.
Etymology of Korean noodles
Noodles have different etymological theories. In Korea, rice cakes were called “byeong,” and noodles were called “myeon.” Boiled noodles were called “noodles” because they were rinsed and taken out. Some theories suggest a Chinese origin, while others propose it came from Szjon Beom-o in ancient India. In Sanskrit, the word “kusa” means sucking and eating, resembling the sound of noodles. Sanskrit was used to record Buddhist scriptures, and it’s said that monks made and sold noodles. Thus, it is claimed that “kushi” transformed into “noodles.”
Also, Donyeongorak, the Korean etymology dictionary, says that flour is used to make noodles and bran for making alcohol. However, it is said that many people made noodles with buckwheat flour rather than wheat flour. Buckwheat flour can be said to be the enemy of wheat flour, as the insignificant buckwheat flour, which has no talent for making alcohol, has surpassed the talented and noble wheat flour. That’s why it’s called noodles. In addition, in other books from the Joseon Dynasty, which are older than this, the word gukshu appears as an old word for noodles, and Korean language scholars believe that this word may be a Korean translation of Chinese characters or Chinese words.
The etymology of specific noodle types in Korean may vary depending on the type of noodle and its specific name. Each noodle type may have its own origin story and unique etymology based on the ingredients, cooking methods, and historical influences associated with that particular kind of noodle.
Proverbs about Korean noodles
- Stomach after eating noodles: When you eat noodles, you get full right away, but it quickly disappears, which means you feel empty and empty.
- A person who is good at sujebi is also good at noodles: A person who is good at one thing means that he or she is good at similar things.
- Like noodles unraveling in hot soup: It means that something becomes easy.
- Eating whole noodles was wrong from the beginning: It means that eating noodles was already wrong from the wedding day, and it means that the work was wrong from the beginning.
- The blood tree is scolded by a bitch who can’t make noodles while using the Anban, which refers to the wooden board on which the rice cake dough is kneaded. It means that a person who is not good at making noodles complains that the noodles are not tasty because the rice cake pan is wrong. This means criticizing people who only blame others.
- A mother-in-law lives for a long time and dies by drowning in a bowl of noodles on the daughter-in-law’s 60th birthday: When a person is cruel and does something rude to others, it means criticizing them.
These proverbs reflect the cultural significance of noodles in Korean society and draw upon the characteristics associated with the preparation and consumption of noodles to convey deeper meanings about perseverance, success, and personality traits.